Thèse de doctorat
Résumé : The traditional view of a lifelong monogamy between a king and a queen has recently been challenged in termites. In several species, multiple parthenogenetically-produced secondary queens replace the primary queen and mate with the primary king; this strategy is referred to as “Asexual Queen Succession” (AQS). The aim of my thesis was to investigate the modalities of reproduction and the ecology of neotropical soil-feeding termites from the Termitinae, with a focus on the inquiline termite Cavitermes tuberosus in the Termes group.In the first axis, we investigated the modalities of reproduction of C. tuberosus. (i) AQS is the main reproductive strategy of this species. (ii) The evolution of AQS requires the propensity of parthenogens to develop into neotenic queens. In C. tuberosus, secondary queens develop from a developmental stage of “aspirants” which participate to the social tasks usually undertaken by workers, as long as the primary queen is alive. (iii) In AQS species, a female-biased sex ratio is expected in the dispersing reproductives. In C. tuberosus, sex ratio varies among years and according to the type of reproductives, and the population sex ratio is balanced. These results raise hints on queen-king conflict over the sex ratio.In the second axis, we described the ecology and symbioses of C. tuberosus. (iv) Wolbachia, an endosymbiotic bacterium mainly known for manipulating the reproduction of arthropods in order to enhance its own transmission, infects all individuals in societies. This bacterium, particularly abundant in a gut-associated bacteriome, may play a role in the nutrition of C. tuberosus; both partners would have evolved a mutualistic symbiosis. (v) Inquiline termites live in a nest built by other termite species and do not forage outside. Physico-chemical measures and microbiota sequencing revealed that C. tuberosus is a generalist nest-feeder.Finally, we expanded our study of the breeding systems in the phylogenetic proximity of C. tuberosus. (vi) We described Palmitermes impostor, a new genus and species as a sister-group to the genus Cavitermes. (vii) AQS is the main reproductive strategy in P. impostor, and queens of Spinitermes trispinosus and Inquilinitermes inquilinus are able to reproduce parthenogenetically. Therefore, it appears likely that the conditional use of sexual and asexual reproductions is a preadaptation common to the whole Termes group, and that it evolved into a stable element of their breeding system at least in some species.Overall, our results open new perspectives in the understanding of reproductive strategies in termites and their relationships with their bacterial symbionts.